We have all made bad financial decisions but the key is recognising when you are heading into real trouble and need to make a U-turn, which means changing your behaviour.
"If you are taking on debt just to cover your everyday expenses, are never on top of your finances or if you are generally panicked when you think about money, then it is time to take control and make a financial U-turn," says Eunice Sibiya, Head of Consumer Education at FNB.
Here are a few ways to identify and make a real change to your behaviour that will make a big difference to your financial well-being.
Have a meeting with yourself
"This may sound silly but you are the most important factor in this relationship," says Sibiya. "You are the one responsible for the money that comes into your bank account and out of it again. And if you are in financial difficulty, you are the one who will gain the most from getting yourself on top of your finances."
Sibiya suggests having an honest conversation with yourself about your money and what you are spending on.
"Take all your statements for the past 3 months and analyse your income and expenses," says Sibiya. "This may take a while if you have never been through this exercise."
The results may come as a shock to you once you realise how much of your money is spent just on debt or unnecessary items of clothing that you haven’t worn since you bought them.
"Once you have an idea where your money is going, you will be able to take the first steps to taking control and changing your spending behaviour," says Sibiya.
Building a real plan
"There is no way to achieve a goal without a plan," says Sibiya.
Decide on an action plan, which will address every one of the payments you make out of your account. You will need a time frame and an amount to put towards your goal every month until it is achieved.
For example, if you have R10 000 owed on your store card with an interest rate of 20% and you decide you want to pay it off in six months, you will need to allocate R1765 per month to pay this off.
"The biggest trick is that you will not only have to really tighten your belt to ensure that you reach your goal in six months, but you will also have to change the behaviour that got you into the difficulty," says Sibiya.
To make things easier on yourself, set up some rules to address certain patterns that cause you to break your habit, such as spending your Saturday mornings at a mall. Change this completely so that you aren’t tempted by spending your Saturday mornings doing something else.
Give yourself a break
If you set yourself up with overly strict rules, you are setting yourself up for failure.
"You need to be reasonable," says Sibiya. "Will you completely refrain from going out with your friends or buy nothing new for the next year? It is unlikely, so build this into your plan and allow yourself a treat every now and then so you don’t become disheartened."
Stick with it
"You need to know that this isn’t just for now, or the next few months. Responsibility with your money is something that needs to happen for the rest of your life," says Sibiya. "This means not giving up the first time you slip by purchasing something unnecessary or missing a repaying on your loan."
Making real changes to behaviour is very difficult. Habits are easy to fall into, that is why it is called ‘breaking’ a habit.
"Making the decision to change is usually the most difficult part of changing bad financial behaviour. Once you have made a U-turn you will be well on your way to gaining control of your finances, and your future financial well being," concludes Sibiya.